Ford promotes second-tier UAW workers

Wages raised from lower entry-level rate

KANSAS (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co said it is adding 1,550 workers at four plants to build the new aluminum body F-150 pickup truck.

The company also said that for the first time it is promoting union-represented workers from the lower entry-level wage to the pay veteran plant workers make. Between 300 and 500 workers will have been promoted by the end of the first quarter, Ford said.

In 2007, the United Auto Workers union and the three major U.S. automakers including Ford agreed that new hires would be paid at a rate less than veteran UAW workers. This was done to allow the U.S. automakers to be more competitive with foreign automakers with U.S. assembly plants.

The union and Ford agreed that 20 per cent of its plant workers could be entry-level, also called second-tier, employees, with exemptions for a parts plant and an axle plant near Detroit, and for new work "in-sourced" to Ford because of the lower labor costs.

By January, Ford had exceeded the 20-per cent level.

Of the 1,550 jobs, 900 are allocated for Ford's truck plant in Kansas City and the rest at three stamping, auto parts and axle plants near Detroit.

Ford did not say how many of the jobs are being added because of the brisk initial sales of the new F-150, which went on sale several months ago. In January, the new aluminum-bodied F-150 accounted for 18 per cent of overall F-150 retail sales.

The F-150 is the primary truck in the F-Series pickup trucks that are the top-selling vehicles in North America and are also key profit makers for the company.

The new workers will be paid the entry-level, also called second-tier, wage of $15.78 per hour, and under current contract terms, will receive 5 per cent wage increases per year until they reach $19.28 per hour.

The workers promoted to a higher employment status were hired in 2010 and have been receiving $19.28. They will make $28.50 with their new status.

The current contract expires later this year.

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